Explaining translation experience in job interviews - feedback needed
Thread poster: Kelly Efird

Kelly Efird
Local time: 06:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Dec 17, 2012

I hope to eventually open my own translation agency, working with the languages of English, Spanish, and possibly Haitian Creole. I have studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and speak Spanish fluently. I have also been readiing Spanish language news media in order to maintain my Spanish skills. In addition I have kind of been teaching myself Haitian Creole through reading it and listening to it on YouTube. Anyway, I don't know how to explain this in interviews for part-time, minimum-wage jobs ... See more
I hope to eventually open my own translation agency, working with the languages of English, Spanish, and possibly Haitian Creole. I have studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and speak Spanish fluently. I have also been readiing Spanish language news media in order to maintain my Spanish skills. In addition I have kind of been teaching myself Haitian Creole through reading it and listening to it on YouTube. Anyway, I don't know how to explain this in interviews for part-time, minimum-wage jobs like for example, a cashier at a grocery store. The people who interview me seem to want more concrete work experience, which I have a little bit (or "some"). So I try and "sell" my Spanish language skills...for example, I interviewed for a cashier position at this one grocery store chain which appears to cater to the Hispanic community in the area, but at the same time is also a "mainstream" supermarket. So I thought if I played up my ability to speak Spanish, that I'd get a job there, but the interview didn't go well at all, the lady wasn't interested in my Spanish and kept asking me, "so, do you have ANY other work experience?" which I thought having studied abroad and learning another language would at least be as valuable as any experience working at a grocery store, but evidently not. Then again, I didn't explicity say, "I speak fluent Spanish and I've been in this store before and I see you have a lot of Spanish-speaking customers, I will be good for this job because I can talk to these customers in Spanish" I didn't say that because I didn't think I needed to; at the time I thought the lady interviewing me would be able to make that connection without me pointing it out. Now I wish I had pointed it out. Is that the problem? Do I need to be more explicit about that?Collapse


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:07
German to English
+ ...
Keep your eyes on the prize Dec 18, 2012

Frankly, if your goal is working in or starting your own translation agency, why are you applying to jobs in grocery stores? Focus your job search on positions that will gain you experience to further that goal while also providing the employer with something valuable - a bilingual employee. Think about what specialized field of translation/interpreting do you want to focus on. Say it's healthcare. Research large practices or hospitals and determine those that have a need for bilingual staff at ... See more
Frankly, if your goal is working in or starting your own translation agency, why are you applying to jobs in grocery stores? Focus your job search on positions that will gain you experience to further that goal while also providing the employer with something valuable - a bilingual employee. Think about what specialized field of translation/interpreting do you want to focus on. Say it's healthcare. Research large practices or hospitals and determine those that have a need for bilingual staff at the front desk or similar, then apply for those positions. Determining the need first means you won't have to connect the dots for the interviewer, and I would imagine you'll be happier doing a job that is both using your current skills and bringing you closer to your ultimate goal.

Good luck! It's still tough getting a job in the States in the current climate. You really have to hustle.
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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 19:07
Chinese to English
Be absolutely explicit Dec 18, 2012

Kelly Efird wrote:

Do I need to be more explicit about that?


The answer to this question is pretty much always yes.

I don't know anything about the USA, but in job interviews in general, you have to bash people over the head with your skills. Don't expect them to work out how you're great. I wonder if you're selling the right skill though: they're in an area with Hispanic people. If they want Spanish speakers, they'll probably hire a Spanish speaker.

Good luck with the translation. The most important thing if you want to become a good translator is to become a really good writer in English. You might be good already, but you can always be better. You've probably never tried writing - or even thinking about - the kinds of things that translators have to deal with. Read instruction manuals carefully, then try to write one yourself. Look at warnings on labels. Download a company's annual report and accounts, and practice mimicking the style. Great writing skills will help you whatever career you end up in.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Experience in shopwork Dec 18, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:
I wonder if you're selling the right skill though: they're in an area with Hispanic people. If they want Spanish speakers, they'll probably hire a Spanish speaker.

I don't think they'll be overly impressed by your language skills. Have you ever worked in a shop? OK, it's a low-wage dead-beat sort of job, but that doesn't mean it's totally simple. There's a lot of difference between someone off the street and an experienced shopworker.

She will want to know whether you've ever been faced with irate customers and had to speak diplomatically to them (in whatever language); whether you know how to deal with shoplifters; whether you'll be capable of dealing with a queue of 15 customers all yelling at you to hurry up; whether you can physically stand the strain of lugging products around all day; whether you're honest enough for the books to balance day after day; etc. etc.

I must say I agree with Daina that concentrating on translating would be better, but you do say you're looking for part-time work, and that can indeed be necessary at first.

Good luck!


 

Jessie Linardi  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
Look beyond the language side of things Dec 18, 2012

If you've managed to become fluent in Spanish by living in another country and interacting with Spanish-speaking people, you've got more skills than just being able to speak Spanish!

Emphasise your ability to adapt to diverse situations, to interact appropriately with all sorts of different people and your skill for self-motivation and organisation (obligatory for freelance translators!).

¡Suerte! I know that it's a pain to have to seek work in an industry you're not
... See more
If you've managed to become fluent in Spanish by living in another country and interacting with Spanish-speaking people, you've got more skills than just being able to speak Spanish!

Emphasise your ability to adapt to diverse situations, to interact appropriately with all sorts of different people and your skill for self-motivation and organisation (obligatory for freelance translators!).

¡Suerte! I know that it's a pain to have to seek work in an industry you're not particularly interested in just to get off the ground.
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Kelly Efird
Local time: 06:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Income Dec 18, 2012

Daina Jauntirans wrote:

Frankly, if your goal is working in or starting your own translation agency, why are you applying to jobs in grocery stores?


Because I need some sort of income.


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:07
German to English
+ ...
I understand Dec 18, 2012

Kelly Efird wrote:

Daina Jauntirans wrote:

Frankly, if your goal is working in or starting your own translation agency, why are you applying to jobs in grocery stores?


Because I need some sort of income.


I do understand and sympathize with that, but why not shoot for something that will bring you closer to your ultimate goal? Applying for office jobs would be more related to what you eventually want to do, for instance, and perhaps give you the chance to learn more about interacting with customers, using common computer programs, etc.


 

Kelly Efird
Local time: 06:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Beggars can't be choosers Dec 19, 2012

Daina Jauntirans wrote:

Kelly Efird wrote:

Daina Jauntirans wrote:

Frankly, if your goal is working in or starting your own translation agency, why are you applying to jobs in grocery stores?


Because I need some sort of income.


I do understand and sympathize with that, but why not shoot for something that will bring you closer to your ultimate goal? Applying for office jobs would be more related to what you eventually want to do, for instance, and perhaps give you the chance to learn more about interacting with customers, using common computer programs, etc.


I would if I could.

The problem is though, as the expression goes: "beggars can't be choosers" in this universal tricky economic climate that we find ourselves in....

We have to "woof" on our hind legs to get a job.


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:07
German to English
+ ...
Kelly Dec 19, 2012

I hope you find something soon!

 

clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:07
French to English
+ ...
Experience Dec 24, 2012

To put it bluntly, grocery store managers aren't that interested in your language skills because speaking Spanish is only a tiny part of what you'd be doing. The Spanish is definitely a bonus but it's more important that you know how to operate the checkout, that you have a good work ethic, customer service skills and things like that. My first job after I graduated was on the front desk of a busy hotel and I got that because I'd worked in hotels every summer during college. The languages were r... See more
To put it bluntly, grocery store managers aren't that interested in your language skills because speaking Spanish is only a tiny part of what you'd be doing. The Spanish is definitely a bonus but it's more important that you know how to operate the checkout, that you have a good work ethic, customer service skills and things like that. My first job after I graduated was on the front desk of a busy hotel and I got that because I'd worked in hotels every summer during college. The languages were really just an extra and that's how it is for most jobs.

If you want to work as a cashier, you have to convince them why you'd be a good cashier. Bring up any relevant work experience you have and try to tie it in with what they're looking for. Explicitly state that your knowledge of Spanish means that you'd be able to communicate with their customers. You really have to sell yourself these days - don't expect them to make the connections between your CV and the job. I've been to plenty of interviews where they clearly hadn't even looked at my CV.

I totally understand that you need a job, any job, to pay your rent and bills, but do consider taking the advice given by other posters and look for a position where you might at least get to develop some office skills, if not actually work in the translation industry. It's very easy to get sucked into dead-end jobs because you need to pay the rent - I know because it happened to me. Consider thinking outside the box - can you go overseas? Move somewhere with more opportunities? Even look at online work? I know a few people who are making fairly good money writing for websites and things like that. It's not the most exciting work, but would take you far closer to your goal than working in a grocery store, IMO.

Best of luck!
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Kelly Efird
Local time: 06:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
But it seems like a "no-brainer" job Dec 26, 2012

I know this is going to sound highly offensive to some, but it isn't that difficult to work a cash register: there are mentally handicapped people in those job positions.

 

clairemcn
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:07
French to English
+ ...
Jobs Dec 26, 2012

Kelly Efird wrote:

I know this is going to sound highly offensive to some, but it isn't that difficult to work a cash register: there are mentally handicapped people in those job positions.


I won't comment on it being offensive, but I think you're missing the point here. It may not be the most difficult job in the world (although 'difficult' is subjective - I find dealing with customers face-to-face and making small talk all day incredibly difficult), but you still need to have the required skills - skills that you don't have, or aren't making it clear that you have. Why would you pick a recent college graduate with no experience when you could choose a candidate who's been doing similar jobs for the last ten years? You think speaking Spanish means you should get the job, but I imagine there are lots of other people who have relevant skills AND fluent Spanish.

Overqualification is another factor. Would you rather employ someone who saw your job as a way to earn a few dollars and planned to move on as soon as they saw something better, or someone who really appreciates the job and is likely to stay for years? I got rejected from several jobs I applied for after graduation and on each occasion, the managers said they liked me but didn't think I'd have stayed long. They were probably right.

Another issue is that college degrees, especially Humanities degrees, do not teach you much about work and real life. I have met countless graduates with all kinds of fancy degrees who had little to no common sense. They could write a great essay, but couldn't transfer a phone call, file papers in the correct place or deal with issues in an appropriate way. Academic skills and life skills are not the same thing.

I think you need to change how you're approaching these kinds of jobs. Walking in and telling them about studying overseas or your degree in Spanish isn't going to impress them. They just want to know if you'll be able to do the job.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I think you just disqualified yourself Dec 27, 2012

Kelly Efird wrote:

I know this is going to sound highly offensive to some, but it isn't that difficult to work a cash register: there are mentally handicapped people in those job positions.


Maybe there are, maybe there aren't. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to spend my whole adult life doing it, but I didn't find it easy at the age of 16-18 to do it for 8 hours each Saturday. I think the really important thing is your attitude to the job. What you bring with you is baggage: it may be useful, it may just be rubbish (garbage for American speakers). The difference is enormous! A disabled person, or a person who has left academic life with no qualifications, may bring nothing to it but a tremendous enthusiasm. My small amount of experience in the field leads me to believe they would be a whole lot more useful than someone with 15 languages and absolutely no motivation. Certainly, a sales team would be unlikely to be a happy team if one member was constantly sneering at the intellectual capacity of the others.


 

Kelly Efird
Local time: 06:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I didn't say any of that in the interview. Dec 27, 2012

And if someone with a mental handicap can get the job, it shouldn't be impossible for me to get.

 

Kelly Efird
Local time: 06:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just to clarify Dec 27, 2012

I don't yet have my degree. I've run out of money and am in debt and therefore need a job, any job, so I can pay off my outstanding balance and continue taking classes.

 


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